10 Rules For Regifting During the Holidays

Whether it's the wrong size, not your style, or something you already own, unwanted gifts are an inevitable hazard of the holiday season. If you're tempted to regift the item to someone else on your list, make sure you follow these tips to avoid hurt feelings (and a reputation for being a cheapskate).

Regifting rules - opening gifts
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Regift good stuff—with good reason

The old adage “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” can ring true in the regifting arena, but some gifts are simply too hideous or too inappropriate to pass on. If you must regift, give something useful that you either don’t need, have more than one of, or simply deem neither your style nor taste. Don’t regift just to get rid of something. A perfect regift is one that you know the recipient will absolutely adore!

Gifts under tree
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Remove any tell-tale signs of regifting

Nothing says “regifted” louder than bits of old tape, wrapping paper, or a gift card hidden inside that’s addressed to you. Another dead regifting giveaway is obvious signs of use, like an errant dryer sheet tucked within a sleeve, or crumbs left in that supposedly new toaster. And always check a book for a tell-tale inscription inside. These mishaps happen most often when you are caught gift-less by surprise and need something fast.

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Food hamper for Christmas
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Forget food

If you dust off the bottle and re-wrap them nicely, old bottles of wine, spirits, and even champagne can be acceptable regifts, but beware cream-based liqueurs as they can curdle with age. Avoid giving old chocolate, which can go a chalky tell-tale white or, worse, contain worms. The world’s most regifted food item is the fruitcake, but it’s better to use it as an offbeat doorstop than to pass it on. Artisanal oils in glass bottles, though lovely to look at, will eventually go rancid. And food inside old gift baskets can become dangerous if eaten past the expiration date. So the regifting rule of thumb here is: avoid foodstuffs.

Novelty singing fish
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Never assume the “novelty” wears off

Novelty items can be hysterical or just plain tacky, depending on the recipient’s sense of humour. But the problem with trying to regift these “gems” is that, though the novelty may have worn off for you, the memory of the gift might not have. Especially in a family, impressions will linger for years. Who can forget the oinking ceramic pig cookie jar, the belching beer bottle opener, or the wall-mounted singing fish? So unless you’re sure the recipient has no ties whatsoever to the original gift-giving circle, don’t risk it.

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Woman crocheting
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Never regift handcrafted and homemade gifts

No matter how eye-popping that green-and-purple blanket your sister-in-law crocheted for you, it was made with love. Regifting items made specifically for you will seriously cause hurt feelings if you are caught. One-of-a-kind gifts like paintings, ceramics, wooden crafts, frames, and mobiles represent a real investment of a loved one’s time and effort, and should never be regifted.

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Regifting rules - Secret Santa
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Beware the “Not-so-Secret” Santa

The annual office party can be a hotbed of regifting, but beware: Santa is supposed to be secret, but people still talk. If your Secret Santa has told everyone what a beautiful gift you are getting, and then sees it on someone else’s desk, things could get ugly. If you are going to regift office presents, do it with your family, and vice versa.

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Regifting - handing gift bag
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Consider the recipient before regifting

Chances are your great-grandfather won’t have a clue what to do with a high-tech gadget that needs a smartphone app to activate. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts, and regifted items that show no consideration for the interests of the recipient show no thought whatsoever.

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Donating box of toys
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Avoid regifting around children

Regifting items with children present is a huge risk. They might rat you out publicly without realizing it, by saying something like, “Didn’t Dad give you one just like that last year?” It’s good to teach children that giving their gently-used toys to charity is a great thing to do this time of year, but you do not want to give them the impression that they can thoughtlessly wrap up any old thing as a present for family and friends.

Here’s advice on how to choose a charity to support this holiday.

Woman on phone during holidays
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Keep track of your regifting habits

Some well-organized and thoughtful regifters have a whole closet of nice presents ready year-round and boast an uncanny ability to remember from whom they originated. But the easiest way to avoid the embarrassment of giving something back to whoever gave it you is to snap a quick picture with your phone or and caption it with the person’s name. Then, you can simply jog your memory from your regifting photo file.

Next, check out our great Canadian gift guide for presents that no-one will want to regift.

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